Listen to "Uncle Ned's Squadron"

A WMAQ Radio Production from November 11th, 1950

Featuring Ned Locke and Co-pilot Hugh Downs

1956 WMAQ logo

Quality programming for children was WMAQ hallmark at least until the early 1960's, thanks in no small part to the firm and even hand of Judith Waller. "Uncle Ned's Squadron", which aired between 1950 and 1954, is a perfect example of how WMAQ's production staff could integrate entertainment and educational content even as the age of television was beginning.

Norbert "Ned" Locke (1919-1992) was a perfect host for this show which taught young people, in a very substantive way, about aviation. He was not only a broadcaster and a pilot, but a flight instructor. On this broadcast he became a middle-school teacher as well.

Note how this broadcast includes reviews of the material just presented and what are, in essence, tests. Though the members of Uncle Ned's Squadron probably didn't realize it, they were going to school on Saturday mornings (which is when the show aired).

Though Ned Locke will be best remembered as "Ringmaster Ned" on WGN-TV's "Bozo's Circus" (the roll he played from 1961 to 1975), I believe he did better work on "Uncle Ned's Squadron". It would be interesting to know how many of his listeners became licensed pilots.

Ned is ably assisted in this broadcast by his co-pilot Hugh Downs, one of the NBC-Chicago staff announcers.

[You will need RealPlayer to listen to these clips].

  • Segment 1 (runs 7:51): After interviewing two members of the studio audience who've actually flown in airplanes (still somewhat of a rarity in 1950), Uncle Ned announces that the "mission for the week" is "loyalty". A bried lecture on the necessity and function of de-icer boots follows.
  • Segment 2 (runs 6:23): Uncle Ned quizzes the audience on the preceding "de-icer" lecture.
  • Segment 3 (runs 6:39): Hugh Downs invites listeners to join Uncle Ned's Squadron. Uncle Ned reflects on the significance of Armistice Day, then tells the story of noted aviator Jimmy Mattern.
  • Segment 4 (runs 7:52): Uncle Ned quizzes the audience on the story he's just told. As the broadcast ends, Hugh Downs again calls on listeners to join the squadron and to join Uncle Ned the following Saturday at 10 AM on WMAQ.

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